Saving Big Money in the Big City

August 29, 2011

Whether you are moving to the big city, embarking on a journey of a lifetime, or simply visiting for a few days, you should know that there are many ways to save money while fully enjoying the benefits of city life.  This post will explore some of the ways you can save money when visiting or living in a big city.

Find a Roommate

Obviously this only applies to those making the big move.  Finding a roommate means cutting down on your monthly costs while possibly living in a nicer place than you could on your own.  In some cities–New York comes to mind–it may be impossible to live “downtown” or even “near the town” without earning an extremely high salary or being willing to take on a roommate or two.

For those of you just visiting for a day or two, the same theory applies…travel as a group so costs can be split and group rates, where applicable, will apply.   There are also some websites devoted to helping people find apartments rather than hotels for extended trips or vacations.

Public Transportation:

Be smart, taxis are convenient but also costly.  Become familiar with local bus routes and any underground transportation that might be available to you.  If you are staying for longer periods of time, spring for a multi-ride card as opposed to paying each individual fare…you’ll save in the long run…on time and money.  Most of all–WALK.  That’s one of the biggest benefits of living in a big city.

Free entertainment

Major cities boast cultural experiences and many of them are free.  Think movies in the park, gallery openings, Sunday museums and local sporting events.  Take in the sights and sounds without the cost by researching city websites.  Most offer calendars with upcoming events, many of which are free to the public.


Many museums, theaters and venues offer memberships with reduced rates.  Also, numerous cities offer City Passes that, for a flat purchase price, include admission to multiple city attractions at drastically cheaper prices.  A City Pass is also a convenient way to experience a city because they often include a list of every location it is accepted, many of which you might not of known about or had thought of trying.

Car share programs

Car share programs are popping up across the country.  The central idea is that owning a car and paying car insurance and parking fees are astronomical for someone living in a major city (and likely not using their car all that often anyway).  The alternative…sell your car and join a car share program.  Each is run a little differently but most are either pay as you drive or pay a monthly fee.  You can go to any pick-up location, use a car and return it whenever you are finished, paying for the gas you use.  Drop-offs/pick-ups are scattered throughout the city, making travel convenient.

Part time job

A part time job does not have to be just for the money–or too help defray those big-city expenses.   Many people work because of a specific benefit it provides them.  Can’t afford a gym membership? Get a part time job at the local gym in exchange for a membership.  Need work-appropriate clothes?  Take on a part time job at your favorite clothing store, pending it offers great employee discounts.

Free Wi-fi

Coffee shops, libraries, ball-parks, pretty much everywhere offers free WiFi.  Take advantage of it when you are out and about.  You might find that between internet access at work and around the city, you may be able to forgo that costly monthly internet bill.


So, whether you are touring a big city or making a life changing move, experiencing all that your city has to offer does not mean you have to break the bank.  Take advantage of the programs sponsored by the city for the public.  Become a smart traveler.  Or work for benefits other than money.  In the end, you will be left with wonderful experiences and hopefully a little money in your wallet.

Other than my years in college, I’ve mostly been a boring suburbanite myself, so feel free to add some comments about ways to save money in the city, that I may have inadvertently left out or failed to address.


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Chris Thomas is a personal finance blogger at Debt and the owner/creator of FreelancePF. Chris has a B.A. in English and a J.D. in law. Chris lives in the northeast with his Wife and dog.

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4 Responses to Saving Big Money in the Big City

  • sophie

    I live in the suburbs of Orange County 20 minutes from LA and 20 minutes from the beach. I like this location, living in downtown is way too expensive. Plus, most big cities tend to be dirty and have high crime rates. But, this article gives out good advice for those that want to live in the city more affordably.

  • @MoneyPerk

    I have never been to the big city, even though I attend to visit there soon, these are very great tips for me when I go there!

    Is there any good ideas on how to save some money on food??


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